We chatted to Kathy Lee, founder and owner of The Pole Project, to find out more about the art of pole dancing in Cape Town.

What is The Pole Project?
The Pole Project was born nearly two years ago from a desire to teach pole dance as a performing art, and a form of exercise to improve fitness, tone and strength. Our studio has grown and developed into an ‘aerial playground’, where dancers, gymnasts and individuals from all walks of life are trained and nurtured in pole dance and other aerial art forms as an outlet for their strength, creativity and agility.

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What attracted you to pole dancing and what inspired you to start The Pole Project?
I love how it combines immense athleticism and strength with effortless grace and artistic expression, which makes it incomparable to any other form of dance or sport. I started The Pole Project with the aim of growing awareness and acceptance of pole dance as a mainstream form of dance and fitness, and not just something that is confined to seedy nightclubs and strip joints.

What’s the most interesting response The Pole Project has received from the public?
I still enjoy seeing the stunned reactions (especially from guys) to our gravity-defying tricks and display of unfathomable muscular strength.

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What are the origins of pole dancing?
There are many ancient forms of pole dancing, such as Chinese pole and Mallakhamb, which have been performed throughout history and almost exclusively by men. Pole dance in the western world is also often linked to exotic style dancing, and can be traced back to the 1900s when striptease was added to the burlesque performances.

Who is The Pole Project for? 
The majority of our students are female, but the number of men pole dancing is growing every year. Men’s natural inclination towards upper body strength makes them ideal candidates for the sport. Although many international pole dance competitions also have kids divisions, and children across the world are excelling at the sport, we usually only accept students who are at least 16 years of age.

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What are the fitness benefits of pole dancing?
Pole dancing is a full body workout. It is resistance training and cardio in one, so it helps to build strength, endurance, muscle tone and helps with weight control. Every muscle works in synchronisation to help you achieve and perform various tricks on the pole. Pole dancing improves your core strength, flexibility and coordination.

Are there any typical injuries associated with pole dancing? 
As with any athletic endeavour, pole dancing can be dangerous without proper training. In addition to bruises, pole dancers can experience shoulder and/or back pain with improper technique or overtraining.

Pole dancing involves gripping or holding onto the pole with the softer parts of your body, such as the inside of your thighs. This is why bruising is a common problem, particularly with people who have just started pole dancing. Fortunately, bruising does decrease as you get better at pole dancing, as advanced pole dancers acquire more strength and control, and their bodies also become more resilient to the stresses of pole work in crucial contact areas. We learn to embrace them as ‘badges of honour’ by calling them ‘pole kisses’ or ‘pole trophies’ – they are something to show for your efforts in nailing that new move.

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Please describe a typical class. What do people enjoy most?
Class typically consists of a warm-up, strength conditioning exercises, pole tricks or spins instructions, and a cool down. Some classes also involve learning a routine which combines the moves you have learnt with dance, floor work and transitions.

Whether you’re uncoordinated and can’t lift your own body weight, or you’re an athlete with gymnastic capabilities, there is always a new trick or transition to learn with pole dancing. The process of growth never ends, and it is incredibly rewarding watching yourself conquer a new challenge each time.

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What’s the best way to get started and what mindset is required?
Come and join us for a trial class. Ignore all the excuses floating around in your head – like ‘I don’t have any upper body strength’, ‘I’m so unfit’, ‘I’m so uncoordinated’, or ‘I feel stupid’. We are here to help you to progressively build skills as you grow and learn, in a friendly, fun and supportive environment. You will be amazed at how inspiring and empowering pole dancing is.

Join The Pole Project in studio and keep a look out for them at festivals, gigs and events as they share their love for pole. Watch out for the Pole Factor 2016, a pole dance competition where competitors show off their X-factor. You can catch them on 17 January at Open Streets on Bree. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily inspiration.

OF NOTE
When Monday–Thursday 9 am – 9 pm, Friday–Saturday 9 am – 2 pm, Schedule
Where First Floor, 117 Roeland Street, CBD
Cost Rates
Contact +27 21 461 0215 or +27 72 354 8959, [email protected], www.thepoleproject.co.za

Photography courtesy Lindsey Appolis

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